Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Savoring the Perfect Mystique of MPS

Over the last couple of years, the great German label Promising Music has issued some of the more eclectic and iconoclastic releases of Hans Georg Brunner-Schwer’s legendary MPS label. The releases are beautifully packaged in gatefold LP-like sleeves, fully reproducing the album’s original cover graphics (encased in a wrap-around utilizing oddly Japanese text, suggesting that the it’s the Japanese who are known for issuing this music so lovingly) and even providing new notes which reflect on the importance of the original music.

Two of Promising Music’s latest releases include violinist Jean Luc Ponty’s Open Strings (1972) and Don Sugarcane Harris’ Cup Full of Dreams (1973) – both sets by jazz violinists who, coincidentally, both appeared on Frank Zappa’s monumental Hot Rats (1969). Obviously, this boutique label cares more about the music – and presenting it properly – than its probably limited sales potential.

Universal Music, the owner of the MPS catalog, on the other hand, has been reluctant to issue more of MPS’s music over the last few years or so, investing instead in multi-disc sets covering the MPS outings of Monty Alexander, Eugen Cicero, George Duke, George Shearing, Art Van Damme, Peter Herbolzheimer and Albert Mangelsdorff.

All of these sets, compiled with great care and attention, contained at least three or four complete MPS albums in total. But, unfortunately, there was even more on the diverse MPS label that still remained unissued, hard to get, or not available on CD in any other way.

Fortunately, though, Universal Music, has gone back to the MPS catalog and recently released the first of several batches of rare MPS classics on CD, many of which appear on CD for the first time. Beautifully re-mastered and perfectly produced by MPS specialist Matthias Künnecke in Universal’s state-of-the-art “Most Perfect Sound” edition, these feel, look and sound as perfect as can be.

It's the first wave of a round of rare and gorgeous MPS titles to be released - and promises much great music to come.

Music For 4 Soloists And Band No. 1 - Friedrich Gulda: A brilliant and beautiful outing featuring Friedrich Gulda – piano and arrangements / J.J. Johnson – trombone / Freddie Hubbard – trumpet / Sahib Shihab – baritone sax and flute / The incredibly staffed “Eurojazz Orchestra” with Stan Roderick – trumpet / Robert Politzer – flugelhorn / Kenny Wheeler – trumpet and mellophone / Erich Kleinschuster, Harry Roche – trombone / Rudolf Josi – bass trombone / Alfie Reece – bass tuba / Herb Geller – alto sax / Rolf Kühn = clarinet and tenor sax / Tubby Hayes – tenor sax and flute / Pierre Cavalli = guitar / Ron Carter – bass / Mel Lewis – drums recorded July 20, 1965, performing “Music For 4 Soloists And Band No. 1,” “Minuet” (the music used by director Jess Franco for the opening credits of the 1968 film Succubus) and “Prelude and Fugue.”

As You Like It - Friedrich Gulda: Fredrich Gulda – piano / J.A. Rettenbacher – bass / Klaus Weiss – drums recorded February 1970 performing “Blues for H.G.,” “I Only Have Eyes For You,” “What Is This Thing Called Love,” “All Blues,” “Light My Fire,” “’Round Midnight” and “East of the Sun.”

Scenes – Live at Ronnie Scott’s Club - Peter Herbolzheimer Rhythm Combination & Brass: Following the beautiful MPS box set of Peter Herbolzheimer’s studio sets, this is the first of two discs, one on Polydor and this one on MPS, issued here that the star-studded Rhythm Combination & Brass recorded live. Kenny Wheeler, Art Farmer, Palle Mikkelborg, Ronnie Simmonds, Ack van Rooyen – trumpet / Ferdinand Povel – flute and soprano sax / Ake Persson, Jiggs Whigham, Rudi Fuessers, Peter Herbolzheimer – trombone / Horst Mühlbradt – electric piano / Dieter Reith – organ, synthesizer and electric piano / Philip Catherine – guitar / Günter Lenz, Jean Warland – bass and electric bass / Kenny Clare – drums / Sabu Martinez – congas and percussion recorded live May 1974 performing “Mr. Clean,” “Con Alma,” “Sideways,” “Hoops,” “Scenes,” “Don’t Speak Now” and “Blues In My Shoes.”

The Catfish - Peter Herbolzheimer Rhythm Combination & Brass: The second – and even better – of two Rhythm Combination & Brass sets recorded live is actually a Polydor album and is issued here for the first time on CD. Truly some of the best electric big-band music ever waxed. Peter Herbolzheimer – trombone / Benny Bailey, Ron Simmonds, Ack van Rooyen, Palle Mikkelborg – trumpet / Otto Bredl, Jiggs Whigham, Vincent Nilsson, Rudi Fuessers – trombone / James Towsey – baritone and soprano sax / Dieter Reith – organ, synthesizer and electric piano / Horst Mühlbradt – electric piano, Hohner clavinet and percussion / Bo Stief – double bass / Todd Canedy – drums / Sabu Martinez – congas and percussion recorded live 1975 performing “Corean Chick,” “P.M.,” “That’s Live,” “The Catfish,” “Head Egg” and “Peyotl.”

Inside: Missing Link - Volker Kriegel: The great German guitarist’s second MPS set, originally a double album and now a two-disc CD (and occasionally sounding like an edgy Crusaders recording), with Volker Kriegel – acoustic and electric guitars, sitar / John Taylor – electric piano / Cees See – flute, percussion, voice and effects / Alan Skidmore – soprano and tenor sax / Heinz Sauer – tenor sax / Albert Mangelsdorff – trombone / Eberhard Weber – bass / John Marshall, Peter Baumeister – drums recorded March 20-23, 1972, performing “Slums on Wheels,” “The ‘E’ Again,” “Zanzibar,” “Missing Link,” “Für Hector,” “Remis,” “Tarang,” “Lastic Plemon,” “Janellas Abertas,” “Plonk Whenever,” “Definitely Suspicious” and “Finale.”

Lift! - Volker Kriegel: The guitarist’s third MPS set, Volker Kriegel – acoustic and electric guitars / Stan Sulzman – soprano sax and flute / Zbigniew Seifert – electric violin / John Taylor – electric piano / Eberhard Weber - bass, cello, electric bass and bass guitar / Cees See – percussion / John Marshall – drums recorded March 5-10, 1973, performing “Lift!,” “Three Or Two In One,” “Forty Colours,” “A Piece With A Chord From A Yorkshire Terrier,” “Electric Blue,” “The Lame Donkey,” “Between The Seasons” and “Blue Titmouse.” Given the titles, it’s obvious that Kriegel (1943-2003) had quite a sense of humor if not a completely droll sense of ironic wordplay. He masters and re-masters music in just about the same way.

Noisy Silence – Gentle Noise - The Dave Pike Set: Dave Pike – vibes and tambourine / Volker Kriegel – guitars / J.A. Rettenbacher – bass / Peter Baumeister – drums recorded January 21, 1969, perhaps the one essential Dave Pike recording featuring “I’m On My Way,” “Regards From Freddie Horowitz,” “Somewhat, Somewhere, Somehow,” “Noisy Silence – Gentle Noise,” “Mother People,” the brilliant and well-sampled “Mathar,” “Vian-De,” “Teaming Up” and the great “Walkin’ Down The Highway In A Red Raw Egg.”

Infra-Red - Dave Pike Set: Dave Pike – vibes, percussion and vocals / Volker Kriegel – guitar, sitar, percussion and vocals / J.A. Rettenbacher – bass and e-bass, percussion and vocals / Peter Baumeister – drums, percussion and vocals recorded June 15 and 16, 1970, performing “Suspicious Child, Growing Up,” “Attack of the Green Misers,” the superb “But Anyway,” “Rabbi Mogen’s Hideout,” “Raga Jeeva Swara,” “Send Me The Yellow Guys,” “Soul Eggs” and “Infra-Red.”

ZOKOMA - Atilla Zoller / Lee Konitz / Albert Mangelsdorff: Atilla Zoller - guitar / Lee Konitz – alto sax / Albert Mangelsdorff – trombone / Barre Phillips – bass / Stu Martin drums recorded March 13 and 14, 1968, performing “Zores Mores,” “Feeling-in And Filling-in In Villingen,” “Ach! Tavia / Skertzo / Alicia's Lullaby,” “At Twighlite,” “Struwwelpeter,” “Alat's Mood,” ”Freeline Fräulein,” “Danke For The Memory” and “Rumpelstilzchen.” ZOKOMA was one of five albums included in the 2009 box set Albert Mangelsdorff Originals Vol. 1 along with Never Let It End (1970), Birds of Underground (1973), which have also been issued separately in this series. Two of the five albums included on the box set Albert Mangelsdorff Originals Vol. 2 - A Jazz Tune I Hope (1978) and The Wide Point (1975) - have also been issued separately for the first time on CD with this outing of MPS CDs.

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